Adaptive Recreational Activities Day Offers Fun, Sense of Purpose
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Adaptive Recreational Activities Day Offers Fun, Sense of Purpose

Avelino Rochino loves attending Salus University events. He appreciates the fact that organizers at Salus make attendees feel comfortable participating in the fun events.

Children in sensory gardenThat was his take again while attending the second annual Adaptive Recreational Activities Day hosted by Hanger Clinic and Salus University on June 24, 2023, at the Hafter Student Community Center on the University’s Elkins Park, Pennsylvania campus.

Rochino was among the adaptive athletes and participants who attended the event, which was open to anyone with physical or cognitive disabilities, including limb loss, brain injury, blindness and low vision or mobility challenges as well as for family and friends. Healthcare and rehabilitation professionals and those with experience or expertise in adaptive sports and recreation served as volunteers.

“It’s important because we as disabled people I think tend to become isolated. Sometimes we isolate ourselves only with our caregivers, and with fellow disabled people,” said Rochino, of Reading, Pennsylvania, who attended with his 11-year-old son, Andre. The elder Rochino lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident four years ago. “It allows for communication and rapport so that we as adaptive athletes can understand how to adapt to different sports and activities a lot better. And, then I also think we’re giving a very good experience to some of the people here, especially the Salus students who are able to see some of the limitations and what other limits we can push through with future patients.”

Adaptive athlete on yoga rugActivities offered to participants included yoga, goal ball (a team sport designed specifically for athletes with vision impairment where participants compete in teams of three, and try to throw a ball that has bells embedded inside of it into the opponents’ goal), sensory garden walks, obstacle course, adaptive cycles, pickleball, wheelchair basketball, adaptive golf, board games as well as nutrition and a skincare workshop sponsored by Alps, a company that manufactures prosthetic liners and skincare products.

New to the daylong event this year — an initiative that last year came out of the University’s newest department, Orthotics and Prosthetics — was the participation of the Blindness and Low Vision Studies (BLVS), Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) and Occupational Therapy (OT) departments at Salus.

“The College of Health Sciences, Education and Rehabilitation Services (CHER) programs have all collaborated within the sensory space to come up with adaptations for participation that can take place across the spectrum of abilities and skill sets,” said Brianna Brim, PhD ‘22, MOT, OTR/L, CPAM, CLIPP, associate professor of Occupational Therapy.

Dr. Perla playing adaptive board gameThe programs also collaborated with different kinds of board games and tabletop recreational activities to enable a variety of abilities and skill sets to participate fully at the event.

“The goal is to be as inclusive as possible in everything we do, including sports and recreation, which are essential for physical, mental and emotional health,” said Fabiana Perla, COMS, CLVR, chair of the BLVS department at Salus. “Nobody should be left out and there are ways that we can adapt or modify so everybody can play.”

This year’s event also attracted the interest of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Nathan Reigner, director of Outdoor Recreation, a staff position with the commonwealth’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, was on hand to learn about the annual Adaptive Recreational Activities Day. The state’s comprehensive outdoor recreation plan, titled “Recreation for All,” is an indication of its commitment toward making outdoor recreation accessible for everyone, according to Reigner.

Man on adaptive bikeAs an example, he cited the installation of specially made viewfinders at Leonard Harrison State Park in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, also known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. The viewfinders allow those with color blindness to experience the majesty of the fall foliage in that area.

“As we build our outdoor recreation network, we want to build a system that is accessible and inclusive of everyone,” said Reigner.

He mentioned two things he hoped to take away from Adaptive Recreational Activities Day: (1) To see participants with disabilities get excited and enthusiastic about engaging in the activities and have fun together; (2) To meet people and learn about who is participating in these activities so that the Commonwealth can learn how to better elevate its support for adaptive athletes in the state.

Tyler on yoga rugTyler Kapinus has attended both of the Adaptive Recreational Activities Days over the past two years and enjoys seeing people with disabilities participating in the activities with no limitations.

“I encourage people to never give up. It’s about learning how to do everything again and not giving up, no matter what adversity you face,” said Kapinus, a community care coordinator for Hanger Clinic who lost his right leg above the knee in a truck accident in 2015. “It gives everybody a sense of purpose that they’re welcome here and they can take part in the activities to the best of their abilities. It’s not like everybody is a superstar athlete. We’re all common and it’s nice to get people together with common interests.”

Wheelchair golfer